Natural Migraine Relief for Children: 5 Ways
Chronic headaches can be difficult for adults to tolerate. Never mind asking an active 5-year-old to cope with the excruciating pain that accompanies most migraines. If you’ve ever suffered from a migraine, you know exactly how painful and debilitating it can be.
Modern science has created medical interventions for managing migraines, including prescription medications designed to reduce the number of episodes you experience. Others combat an active migraine headache to provide quicker relief.
Not all prescription medications are recommended for young children and adolescents. Frequent use of others can cause a child to have recurrent symptoms. Natural migraine relief for children can ease the pain and get little ones back to enjoying life again.
What’s a migraine?
Migraines are moderate to severe headaches that can last from 2 to 48 hours. Children who live with these chronic headaches can get as many as four a month. Children and adolescents can experience one of two kinds of migraine headache:
- Migraine without an aura, called a common migraine, occurs in 60 to 85 percent of children and adolescents who regularly experience these chronic headaches.
- Migraine with an aura, called a classic migraine, happens in 15 to 30 percent of children. An aura is a “warning sign” that a migraine is about to strike. Common auras include blurred and distorted vision, blind spots, and bright, flashing, or moving lights or lines. Sometimes auras affect a child’s ability to hear, speak, move, smell, taste, or touch.
Migraines usually occur late in the day for young children and first thing in the morning for adolescents and teens.
How many children suffer from migraines?
Roughly 20 percent of all children in the U.S. between the ages of 5 and 17 have chronic headaches. A whopping 15 percent of those are high school-aged-children. Another 3 percent of child migraine sufferers are preschoolers, and the rest are elementary-school-aged.
Before puberty, boys are more likely to experience migraine headaches than girls. However, the roles reverse as they become young adults, with women three times more likely than men to experience chronic headaches.
What causes migraines in children and adolescents?
Originally, medical practitioners thought migraines were caused when blood vessels in the brain changed size, increasing or decreasing blood flow. Now, researchers believe the pain is caused by a brain malfunction affecting those nerves and blood vessels. Some evidence suggests that chemical releases in the brain can trigger these changes.
Migraine also is genetic. If you have a family member with the condition, your chances of developing it increase by 60 to 70 percent. While migraines are painful, the good news is they don’t cause damage to your body.
What are the symptoms of migraine?
Most children get similar symptoms when they have a migraine headache. The most obvious sign is a pounding or throbbing head pain that doesn’t stop. In children and adolescents, the pulsating discomfort may affect just one side of their heads.
Other indicators of a migraine include:
- Irritability and moodiness.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Pale skin.
- Sensitivity to light and sound.
Migraine triggers are different for every child. For some, changes in normal eating or sleeping habits can bring one on. For others, it may be the changing of the seasons that does it. Hormonal changes also can activate a migraine. Your child’s doctor should be able to identify contributors to your child’s migraines so you can work toward eliminating or reducing them.
5 natural solutions for migraines in children
Harsh medications can sometimes make the migraine worse. Young children also might be resistant to taking prescriptions that can cause side effects. The good news is there are plenty of natural solutions to help manage their migraines. Here are some of the most effective.
Acupuncture and massage therapy
Acupuncture and massage have been around for thousands of years for good reason. Manipulating the body through these natural techniques can help reduce the number of migraines a child experiences each month, plus control the pain associated with these headaches.
Massage manipulates the soft tissues to release tension, which can trigger migraines in some children. Acupuncture uses thin needles inserted through the skin to release endorphins that reduce the perception of pain. Most acupuncturists require bi-weekly sessions for four to six weeks for the best results.
Guided imagery therapy
Children are pros when it comes to this therapy technique, which relies heavily on the imagination. Some pediatricians are trained in guided therapy, but you may have to seek out a specialist in this area if you want to try it with your child.
Guided imagery therapy works by teaching the child to create mental images that help promote relaxation. Since stress is thought to trigger migraines, learning to lessen anxiety can control the pain.
Magnesium deficiency can trigger headaches in children. Teens who suffer from frequent migraines are at higher risk of magnesium deficiency than younger children since teens eat fewer magnesium-rich foods. Changing up your child’s diet to include more natural sources of magnesium can help stave off migraine attacks.
Never use magnesium supplements without first consulting your child’s doctor. Magnesium, when used improperly, can cause diarrhea and other digestive system issues.
Menthol essential oil therapy
Essential oil therapy can help with all kinds of pain relief, including migraines. Some essential oils like peppermint contain menthol, a crystalline substance that works as a mild skin anesthetic. Many soothing muscle balms and salves contain menthol for this reason.
Rubbing menthol-containing solutions directly into the temples, forehead, and back of the neck can ease migraine pain in children and adolescents. Premiere’s Headache ReLeaf Roll-On is ideal for this use. The strong, all-natural headache and migraine pain reliever contains menthol and other essential oils known for their pain-relieving properties. Just roll it on and you’ll have pain relief in a few seconds.
Just like children and teens can be magnesium-deficient, they also may be lacking in B2 (otherwise known as riboflavin). A few studies conducted with adults showed that B2 supplementation decreased the number of migraines adult sufferers experienced. Similar research in children has been inconclusive, but healthcare practitioners generally agree that it’s safe to try for children with migraines.
How much B2 you should give a child with migraines can be determined in consultation with their primary care doctor or another migraine specialist.
Shari Berg is a researcher, frequent blogger, feature writer, and author of Wars End with Me.